Staged Reading: The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds
by S. Ansky, translated by Joachim Neugroschel adapted by Tony Kushner, directed by Michael R. Cohen. Sunday, February 24th at 2 p.m., at Temple Beth Hillel in Richmond. A co-production of Actors Ensemble and Temple Beth Hillel. $10 Suggested donations.
Originally titled Tsvishn Tsvey Veltn (“Between Two Worlds”), the play was based on the mystical concept from Ḥasidic Jewish folklore of the dybbuk, a disembodied human spirit that, because of former sins, wanders restlessly until it finds a haven in the body of a living person.
From 1912 until 1914, From S. Ansky (1863-1920), one of the most famous writers of Yiddish literature, conducted an ethnographic study of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Ansky recorded stories, songs, rituals and superstitions, which later provided material for his own writing. Like other Yiddish writers Ansky wrote in both realistic and supernatural veins; the latter style a simplified version of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. Ansky had easy access to the basis of Kabbalistic literature, because the Jewish Chasidic movement of the late nineteenth century had already changed the incredibly complex stories of the Kabbalah to make them available to an uneducated public.
Tony Kushner's adaptation of Ansky's A Dybbuk explores the themes of lust and desire, of worship and holiness, and corruption and sin. A Dybbuk is a story of a shtetl romance, in which a young student, Chonen, falls in love with the daughter of the richest man in town, Leah. Sender, Leah's father, will never accept the impoverished Chonen as a husband for his daughter.